What puzzles many new home workout enthusiasts is how to do pull-ups without a bar. Some try to substitute with alternative exercises, but pull-ups can't really be replaced and it also is not necessary: The world is full of places where you can do pull-ups and chin-ups. Let Hjortur show you lots of examples.
Pull-Up Bars Are Everywhere!
If you can't afford to buy a pull-up bar or don't have one at the moment, there are pull-up bars all around you, if you are creative enough: You can do them from beams in the roof, stairs, ladders, on children's playground equipment, ships, road-signs, balconies, fences and even light-poles!
I went on a quest around my house, my yard, and places in my neighbourhood to find pull-up bars, to show people that they really are all around! Here's a few example pictures of how you can use places found all around you to do pull-ups on.
The beam in my attic is just perfect, I used it before I bought my pull-up bar. It's sturdy and wide, but you may want to wear gloves to prevent splinters.
If a doorway is sturdy enough, you can use it to do pull-ups. DO NOT DO CLOSE-GRIP ON THESE; it will increase the chances of the doorway breaking! Mom will not be happy.
A stairway is a great pull-up bar. The grip is a little difficult, but it's infinitely better than no pull-ups.
Make sure if you use a ladder that it's perfectly sturdy and doesn't fall on you. Provided you do that, they are just great for pull-ups. If there's something above your head that you can accidentally head-bash with (like in my picture), just grab one rung lower than you would normally do and bend your knees, so you can pull all the way up.
A fence works perfectly, if it's smooth enough that you can drag your knees along it when you pull yourself up. And don't worry, your lats get just the same workout, although it might feel silly. This setting also has the advantage that you can't use your legs to swing yourself up with, which forces you to use your lats to do the exercise.
You can also use all kinds of kid's playground equipment; it's built sturdy, and you can usually find some kind that allows you to grab hold high enough to do pull-ups.
Swings, for example, are a great and common piece of pull-up equipment, I've used them many times before.
Slides with a bar on top (used to swing yourself down) are perfectly ideal for people who can't do regular pull-ups, as you can rest your legs in the slide while pulling yourself up on the swing-bar.
Cloth-line supports are just the perfect girth, height and width for my wide-grip pull-ups! How nice of them to install one just next to my house.
Well, you might not all have docks in your backyards, but it just comes to show that any variety of things work!
I will yield at nothing to do my pull-ups! (Just for humor; this is not advised, because in a street with traffic this can be dangerous and damaging the sign can cost some money!)
Some pull-up bars may also seem way too low for you to do pull-ups on them, but, again, you just have to use your head. If you find a low bar, you can do sitting pull-ups, that are just as effective. If the bar is too low, you might get a lower range of motion than you would with a full pull-up, but it's still a great work-out for your lats, maybe with more reps. Here's some examples of this:
A typical walking rail; I can get a great lat workout with this thing, and it's never in use early in the morning and late at night (it's a healthcare center that's open from 9-5). You'll also notice that the bar slants and will work one lat more than the other. What I'll do to fix this is turn around for every new set so it evens out.
A typical low-setting children's jungle gym. The high-versions allow regular narrow-grip pull-ups, but here I use the low one for sitting narrow-grip pull-ups, by grabbing consecutive bars and pulling my head up between them.
Even a normal table that's high enough can be used for these sitting pull-ups, although they usually offer a pretty low range of motion. It's always better than nothing though.
Two chairs are something that everybody should have around their house, and are a great sitting chin-up setting. They require a little balance, but if they're your only option, I'm sure you'll get the hang of it.
Create Your Own
Now you already know lots of ways on how to do pull-ups without a pull-up bar. But you can also create a well-functional pull-up bar from regular objects found around your house.
Here's a way you can do that easily, and all you need is a piece of rope that's thick enough that you can do pull-ups with it without hurting your hands too much (but you can fix it with regular gloves). What you need to do is find a high place you can hang the rope to that's sturdy enough to hold your bodyweight. Don't be doing this with coat-hangers or chandeliers, it will not be popular! Here's what you do:
Put the rope in a circle and tie a regular knot, so the rope looks something like this.
Tie another knot around the one you already made, so the rope now looks like this. Now it will not slide when you hold it, and you can do your pull-ups holding the rope!
Here is what it looks like when used.
This same setting also works with two vertical poles on a low balcony; just set it up standing on the balcony, and go down afterwards to do the pull-ups.
If you don't have two adjacent hooks to tie the rope around, you can also tie a similar setting around one hook, which will allow you to do narrow pull-ups or chin-ups. The setting will look like this, using the same knot described above.
I tried it myself and found that bare-handed, my hands gave out before my lats did, and I don't have any gloves. But remember, there are no problems, only solutions! I tried putting socks on my hands (clean ones!) and tried it again, and I got a great workout out of this simple setting. So even the absence of gloves is no excuse! Although I imagine gloves are always better.
Another simple rope setting is tying the rope around a flag- or light pole or any other sturdy vertical pole.
Then you can do your pull-ups by tying the rope around your hands, but not too tight so you won't damage them. You should hold the rope firmly enough that the loop doesn't slip and be close enough to the ground that you can fall to your feet without ripping your hands off.
You can also tie a knot on each end of the rope to make a better grip and place your hands above each knot, so they won't slip. If at first the knots aren't the same length, you can fix it by loosening the top knot, then grabbing each side-knot, and tightening them evenly. Then you can swing the top knot to the desired height.
A World Full Of Pull-Up Bars!
Youre' now ready to go and try out new places for doing pull-ups at home and elsewhere. Just remember that whatever you try, make sure it's safe. Ropes and hooks, for example, have to be able to bear your weight, while tables, chairs and ladders must support it without toppling. When you first try out a new setting for your pull-ups, make sure about these, so that you won't damage things or hurt yourself.
If you keep this in mind, you too should now have a world full of pull-up bars and can make them part of your home workout program!
This article was written by Hjortur, a master at finding alternative ways into fitness and working out.